Today has not been a good day for me. I’ve been grumpy – snapping at my family, who walk on eggshells when I’m in this kind of mood, and getting angry with friends who have done nothing but reach out to me online. As introverts on the internet celebrated at the beginning of the lockdown, joking about how easy it would be for them to stay at home, something inside me wilted. I knew that lockdown was going to be tough, but I never really reckoned on it lasting this long.
I am probably as big of an extrovert as it is possible to be, and this is my worst-case scenario. Normally, it is rare to find me sitting still for more than a couple of minutes – my essays are written in bursts of ten minutes at a time, and I can’t focus on anything if I know there’s an unopened message on my phone. I need every second of my day to be filled with something, and then I fall asleep exhausted, waking up the next day to do it all over again.
But when the lockdown started, I went from 100 miles an hour to sitting in my living room, unable to go out or work. And this was nice, for a couple of days when it had a novelty value. I could still communicate with friends – this was just like a normal vac, in terms of time away from them. There were regular enough calls with other hacks, and with my human friends, and the group chats were lively enough to still be interesting. But I struggled to motivate myself to do revision, or write the essay that was due.
And when term started, this got worse. I took on a week of night shifts – to get out of the house, to earn money, just to have something to do – and was struggling to stay awake long enough to write essays and do reading. But this felt better than the vac time; I wasn’t doing nothing all day and staying up until the early hours. Instead, I was back to exhausting myself again; this was a return to an old model of behaviour that never left me alone with my thoughts.
But this week so far has been different. I’ve woken up every day at 8am, whereas before I had become almost nocturnal. I’ve been spending actual time on academic work, forcing myself to sit and focus for longer than it takes me to drink a cup of tea. I’m still scatter-brained and lonely, but I’m trying to be those things more positively. I’ve finally managed to do what a decade’s worth of teachers tried desperately to get me to do – slow down, consider things more deeply, to relax and let go a little bit.
Today I slipped up. I got angry and sad and I really wanted to hit something. I missed playing sport, and going out. I missed my friends, and the support network I’ve created for myself outside of my family – I missed the person that I get to be when I’m in Oxford. But I’m learning to enjoy the growth that isolation is offering me; I can learn to be more patient, more compassionate, and more caring. There is a silver lining to this cloud, if I can slow down for long enough to see it.